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Court Tosses Manslaughter Conviction in Case of Drunk Driver who Caused Accident Allegedly Leading to Officer’s Death

A state appeals court threw out the manslaughter conviction of a man from Oakdale who allegedly was responsible for the death of a Nassau County police officer while driving drunk in 2012.

James Ryan, the 31-year-old man who was the driver in that 2012 incident, was sentenced to more than five years in prison after convictions of second-degree manslaughter, second-degree vehicular homicide, aggravated criminally negligent homicide and other charges in his 2016 trial. He was scheduled to be released from the Collins Correctional Facility days later.

What’s behind the change?

The court ruled that too much time had passed between the accident and the death of Officer Joseph Olivieri for Ryan to be held criminally responsible for the fatality.

When the accident occurred, Ryan was speeding on the Long Island Expressway (LIE) after having too much to drink at a lounge in Manhattan. He sideswiped a BMW near Exit 35 with his Toyota Camry. After stopping on the LIE, he was rear-ended by a Honda Civic driven by an off-duty detective. Ryan’s vehicle spun and stopped in the high-occupancy vehicle lane on the expressway.

Meanwhile, several other drivers parked on the right shoulder of the LIE. Olivieri parked on the far-right side of the highway after arriving at the scene and was walking across the expressway when another vehicle, a Cadillac Escalade driven by 53-year-old Francis Belizaire, arrived. The SUV driver approached at 40 miles per hour, slowing down only to 37 miles per hour while approaching Ryan’s vehicle. Belizaire hit the Toyota and then struck Olivieri.

Ryan’s attorneys argued that Belizaire was responsible for the officer’s death, and the appeals court agreed. Ryan would have only served eight months without the charges for Olivieri’s death added to his conviction.

Each auto accident case is different from the next. For the sound legal guidance you need, work with a skilled Long Island auto accident attorney at Jakubowski, Robertson, Goldsmith, Maffei & Tartaglia, LLP.